State Sen. Ben Hueso appears at Golden Hall on election night in March 2020. / Photo by Megan Wood

Less than a week after calling supporters of Proposition 15 “disconnect from reality,” Sen. Ben Hueso is now joining their ranks.

The statewide ballot measure would change the way property taxes are assessed for businesses and industrial properties – the additional tax revenue could generate billions for local schools and governments. Now owners pay property taxes based on the price they purchased the real estate, which is generally far less than its market value today.

Prop. 15 would continue to protect the 1 percent assessment cap that Proposition 13, passed in 1978, provides homeowners and residential properties, but will likely increase property taxes on larger businesses.

“Right now, you’d have to be very disconnected from reality to want to support a measure that is not going to help businesses recover,” Hueso told KUSI last week.

Hueso is running for to represent District 1 on the County Board of Supervisors against another Democrat, Nora Vargas, a trustee for the Southwestern Community College Board and a former Planned Parenthood executive.

Vargas pushed back on Hueso for attacking her support of the measure.

“At a time when our communities are hurting from this pandemic, we have an opportunity to close an unfair tax loophole that could provide the boost our local economies need as we prioritize recovery for our County. … You opposing Prop 15 and not understanding all of this – I would call that being disconnected from our communities,” Vargas wrote in a letter to Hueso.

SEIU 221, the union that represents the largest group of county employees, and the teachers union, are fervently backing Prop. 15. Several large unions in the county have stayed out of the D1 supervisor race, but Hueso’s opposition to Prop. 15 may have tipped the scales.

The risk may have been too much for Hueso.

On Tuesday, Hueso flipped his stance and announced in a press release he now supports Proposition 15:

Last week, I expressed misgivings and indicated I was not in favor of Proposition 15. I’ve since heard from many of my constituents – from small business owners, teachers, public safety personnel and many others. All of them shared with me the importance of this ballot measure, and how badly we need this revenue to improve our schools and deliver essential public services.

These are very difficult times for small businesses and families, and they are worried that Proposition 15 will add to their tax burden at a time when they can least afford it. I further reviewed the ballot measure. It does not increase taxes on “mom and pop” businesses or on single family residential homeowners. Instead, it closes glaring tax loopholes that have benefited many of the largest property owners and corporations in California at the expense of everyone else.

Maya was Voice of San Diego’s Associate Editor of Civic Education. She reported on marginalized communities in San Diego and oversees Voice’s explanatory...

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